Are You Done Yet?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

060117_areyoudoneyetWe’ve all been there. The moment you realize that you’re doing something that is not in your best interest — and then continue to do it, over and over again, sometimes for weeks, other times for years. Until one day you reach your breaking point and feel you have no other option than to make a radically different choice to end the unpleasantness you are experiencing. (Many times, this process is rather dramatic and can be also known as a breakdown, meltdown, burnout, depression or in some cases a mid-life crisis.)

If you are like most people, there is normally a huge time gap between having the awareness that what you are choosing/doing isn’t working for you, and acting to alter or stop it in order to create a future that is different from the past. And for most people, there really isn’t much in-between, it’s an all or nothing pattern: Do it until it becomes unbearable.

We are not always talking huge life issues either. It could be eating a food you know won’t agree with your belly, staying up late to watch one more episode of your new favorite show, being absorbed in your mobile device when you’re with loved ones, not expressing yourself, or staying in relationship with a toxic person or work team. The list of examples is endless.

The point is each day everyone makes a few choices that sabotage their desired outcomes. (Even the most awake, balanced people do this.) And each day you watch yourself over and over again make the same choices and have the same conversation in your head about it, “I can’t believe I ate that”, “I should have gone to bed earlier”, “Why did I keep my phone out for that”, “I wish I would have said that instead”, “I let him/her talk to me that way again”.

Then the next day, you do it all over again. Until you have a health issue, a resentment issue, a relationship issue, or until the work team dynamic becomes so bad you are driven to leave. What if it were possible to be “done” without high drama or need for drastic action? What if you could decide in advance what your breaking point is, so rather than being surprised when you reach it, you see it coming and even plan for its arrival?

What if it were as simple as asking yourself this powerful question: “Am I done yet?”

What if you could define that limit before you get there and ask yourself — what does being done look like? “I will continue to eat this until my cholesterol reaches a certain level”, “When I need 4 cups of coffee to wake up — that’s how I’ll know I stayed up too late”, “I will withhold my emotion only 100 more times”.

You know you are done when the unpleasantness of what you are experiencing is beyond tolerable. Most people fear being done, because they don’t know what’s next. The great news is that there are very few truly unique problems in this world and the odds are highly likely you are not alone being done with whatever it is you’re done with — a few conversations with others, and an internet search will likely turn up more resources to support you than feels possible. It’s like when you decide to buy a car, and then you start to see that car everywhere. When you’ve decided you’re done, resources will line your path.

A future that is different from the past starts with a single question: Are you done yet?

[Note: This post originally appeared in HuffPost]

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Change the Peg

By Larry Ward, Senior Dharma Teacher at The Lotus Institute and Friend of Simple Intentions

052517_ChangethePeg_LarryWhen we train our intention to focus on our states of mind, we cultivate our residual awareness. Neuroscience would say this practice is about taking charge of directing our own neuroplasticity. We are intentionally deciding (literally) how our brains are shaped, and how our nervous systems function – as much as we as individuals can influence that.

To achieve this, we must be constantly attempting to master 3 things in our mind:

– Awareness of what’s happening in our minds
– Learning how to shape our minds
– Willingness to liberate ourselves from our mind’s tendencies to cling and grasp

There are many variations of the meaning of “mind” – but the most important meaning of mind is state of mind. Where is your mind right now? What state is your mind in?

To answer that we first must know what a state of mind is. A state of mind includes several things. It includes images of ourselves and images of our world; it includes emotional tones, like a mood; and it includes questions that inevitably come up in different states of mind, these questions change depending on what the state is. Two states of mind to be aware of are the high mind and the narrow mind.

When the highest mind is there (this can also be called an empowered state of mind or being), we feel happy, we feel open, we feel generous. But when the narrow (or disempowered) mind is in control, we feel the opposite.

One way to change your state of mind is called “changing the peg”. If the radio show playing in you’re mind right now is causing you pain and suffering, change the channel. It takes skill to change the peg because so many of our disempowered mental states are often seductive and encompassing. Create a list of things you know can help you change the channel or change the state of your mind. All of us need a list, a specific one – just like the subconscious checklist you use to get dressed every morning. Get dressed for your life. Get dressed to be awake. Make sure you have the tools you need so you don’t confuse the clouds with the blue sky, the birds with the trees. So you don’t confuse being the Inn Keeper with the guest. Change the peg.

States of mind aren’t permanent but consist of a flowing energy coming through. But it’s so easy to think it’s permanent. It’s so easy to latch on to a state of being, to have that define us, to see everything through that lens. Everything we see becomes amplified, larger than life – and drives us in a certain direction of thought, speech, and behavior.

A large part of being able to change our state of mind is being able to receive what life gives us –  without pretending that’s not what we got. My peace is not because I don’t have suffering. Peace comes from attending to our suffering without pretending it’s not there, attending to the suffering of society without pretending it’s not there.

Think about what it means to be at home with your family, friends, and neighbors. If you cannot change your state of mind, you have to figure out how to embrace it. This means figuring out how to be bigger than our experiences. The calmer we are (like when we are at home with loved ones), the easier it is to hold our experience. This is cultivation. This is being a good internal gardener. By preparing yourself to receive different states of mind, even when they are low or disempowered.

And if you can’t shift out or “change the channel” – ask for help. Just that act may help you change the peg.

 

This content is an excerpt from Larry’s recorded Dharma Talk Cultivating Liberation and Awareness of the Mind, it has been condensed and edited for written format. Watch Larry’s entire Dharma Talk here.

 

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Three Steps To Internal Activism

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

Internal Activism ess051817_InternalActivismentially means being the change you wish to see in the world. It is a concept that Mahatma Gandhi became known for and a teaching that Martin Luther King Jr. carried forward.   Before one can be the change they wish to see in the world, they need to understand truly what the change is they wish to be.

Sounds logical and simple, however simple doesn’t mean easy and even the logical can become confusing when the volume of information and data becomes too much to discern.  Our world is becoming increasingly more complex and there is a common desire for many things to change (and change all at once). It’s easy to become either demoralized or paralyzed with where to best focus energy and attention to be the change you wish to see.

When feeling overwhelmed, it’s tempting to get angry at people and situations and cast blame outward.  The pull toward trying to change others behavior, to get them to act or do certain things, is a powerful one, one that can lead you to use manipulative behaviors that only compound your feelings of powerlessness.  A more powerful and impactful action is to choose to change what you can change about yourself when you are engaged in situations where you desire an alternative outcome.  It is through trusting the process of taking internal, thoughtful, individual action that lasting activism is born.

Internal Activism is a process that uses the skill of awareness to help people identify the change they wish to see in the world. When individual action is created around that change, it can transform singular effort into community or global activism and shift the environments in which we live and work.  There are 3 steps to discover your path to Internal Activism.

Define It. 

What is the change you want to see in the world? Your world can be defined as your family, your work, your community, your country or even yourself.  Where do you desire a shift, a change, a new direction? In what way would you like to see your world different?  Notice the articles you read, the shows you watch, the people you talk to. What is stirring you up and making you uncomfortable? What is it that you are avoiding or ignoring? What is it that gets under your skin?  What are you ready to stop tolerating or accepting?

If you are like most people, you’ll notice more than one thing you want to change.  Start simple and pick one issue or trigger to focus on for now.  (Don’t worry about picking the “right” thing – if you care about it, it’s right for you.) For example, you might be bothered by bullying behavior at work, issues around diversity and inclusion, or people obsessed with their devices.  The size and scale of the issue doesn’t matter – only that you care about it and wish to see a different outcome.

Discern it.

Take the trigger/issue you picked and isolate it from all the others. For right now make this your focus for action.  Consider the issue from all sides.  What is it about this issue that triggers you?  How does it make you feel?  How often do you see it and where do you see it?  How do you currently respond and show up when it occurs?  Consider the desired end state for the change you wish to see. What do you want to be different?  Now make a list of the behaviors you can take to support that outcome.  What role can you play?

For example, if you picked workplace bullying, start by creating awareness around your own behaviors to determine if any of your actions could be considered bullying by other people. Perhaps some can and you were previously unaware of it. Next, notice how often it happens, where, when, who and what meetings do bullying patterns emerge?  Finally, decide the behavior you wish to model when you witness bullying in a meeting occur.  Perhaps you have a go-to phrase, “I’m interested to learn your thoughts/feelings, however, I’m not comfortable with that language in this meeting, in the future talk like that (give example) isn’t acceptable.”

Do It.

Now the hard part – putting it in action.  It’s much easier to contemplate being the change than it is to actually do it.  Being the change means you will likely upset your world in some way. Setting a boundary or addressing unacceptable behavior will cause some discomfort and maybe even some tension at the start.  The same is true with learning to undo something that you’ve noticed is a behavior that you no longer wish to do – it’s common to feel exposed at the start of being the change.

Behavior change takes time.  It also takes courage no matter how big or small the change is you wish to see – you will likely feel vulnerable at first.  Stay with it and trust that over time, the more deeply connected you are to your action, the more confidence and empowerment you will feel each time you witness yourself being the change.

The key to successfully living a life of Internal Activism is consistency in your behavior (words and actions).  Stick with the behaviors you’ve chosen and at every opportunity, be the change – offer others an example, become the presence of the possibility until it becomes as natural as breathing. Then begin again to become the next change you wish to see in the world.

[Note: This was originally published in HuffPost]

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Moments to Unlock and Unblock

By Elaine Jones, Market Intelligence Lead at Microsoft and Friend of Simple Intentions

051117_Unlock+UnblockRecently, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes on leadership, from Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” I had asked my toddler daughter to fetch me a book from the top of the counter one evening. She happily skipped to the counter to get it, only to be an inch or two too short to reach it. In between suggesting trying a step stool and thinking I should just do it myself, it struck me that Eisenhower may be only half right.

We all encounter situations where the lack of motivation for change seems senseless. We assume positive intent, and are sometimes even certain that motivation is plentiful. Yet nothing happens. I call these situations the “Eisenhower Trap”, just because someone else wants to do something you want done, doesn’t mean something gets done. These situations look like this:

  • A close partner with the same vested interest in success consistently pushes back on every proposal, clearly emotional about the disagreement
  • A motivated employee is unable to stretch themselves to a higher level of performance at work
  • That person on the team who somehow always manages to find a fault with the plan, or casts a negative light on a piece of good news
  • A colleague stuck in a job they hate and aren’t doing well in, but persists on the job day after day
  • When I need to make a difficult decision, and speak to everyone I know, hoping someone will give me the encouragement to avoid a difficult choice

I’ve realized that each of these situations represent an Unlock or Unblock moment. In each of these situations, a critical Unlock or Unblock action is needed to be able to progress the situation. Recognizing which of these actions is better suited for the situation goes something like this for me:

In Unlock situations, the individual,
– Seeks permission or approval
– Experiences fear or anxiety of failure
– Feels inadequate about qualifications or knowledge

In Unblock situations, the individual,
– Seeks authority or empowerment
– Experiences internal or external conflict
– Meets disapproval of their opinions or thoughts

To Unlock the situation, I focus on easing the fear and doubt by offering encouragement and support. I praise the effort instead of the outcome, and marvel at how amazing it is and feels to take the first step, to be brave and to try something new for the first time. I offer safety nets, yet quite frequently find that I do not intercede publicly on their behalf, instead, I provide pointers and feedback privately to turn good into greatness. This belief in the intrinsic abilities of the individual to accomplish greatness may feel like a loan, a leap of faith, but I am seldom disappointed.

Situations where someone needs to be Unblocked feel inherently different. My trust in their abilities feels less like a loan and more like a payment overdue. I am publicly standing with someone in this situation, and lend my authority and opinion openly in support of the person I intend to Unblock. I reward and praise their accomplishment, deliberately looking for ways in which their ideas, even negatively, improve a project, remove risk, and give credit to the good of their intentions. Once whatever is holding them back is Unblocked, they take off like a launched rocket, releasing the pent-up passion and ideas that were waiting to be expressed.

In some sense, Eisenhower’s quote could be flipped around: “Because they want to do it, Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done.” Trust that someone else wants to do what you want done. Now, Unlock or Unblock their way there.

 

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My New Trick Journey

By Dayna Lee Cohen, Customer Events Manager at Insights and Friend of Simple Intentions

Blog_NewTricks_Dayna_0427Old dogs are the best dogs. Puppies, like babies, get more attention, but it’s the old dogs who really embody the traits of what I love about the species; they are the most loyal, loving, and soulful…they are the sweetest and most comfortable.

I am an old dog. I initially shied away from attaching that moniker to myself, but it’s true. And when I think about the behaviors of old dogs, I realize they are my behaviors, and the aforementioned traits could also be applied to me. And that was pleasing to me.

For the first time in years, my mom spent the day at my house yesterday, and it was so wonderful to have her. She is a REALLY old dog and likely would not appreciate being called so. Part of the time yesterday was spent showing Mom new dog tricks – her dog, Zoe, has recently become a part of my family as Mom can no longer accommodate a pet where she’s living – and I have been working to teach Zoe new habits and behaviors.

I began my mindfulness journey at roughly the same time Zoe arrived in our household. Coincidentally, Zoe and I have both learned new tricks over the past few weeks.

Here are Zoe the Dog’s:
1. No pee or poop in the house
2. Sit
3. Speak
4. No licking (still working on this one)

And here are mine:
1. No electronics in the first hour upon awakening
2. Take time out of each day to have moments of fun and distraction
3. Acknowledge the positives – all of them, large and small
4. Be quiet sometimes (still working on this one)

I know you are wondering how to teach an old dog new tricks and it’s pretty simple, really – There are three key steps:
– Repetition
– Praise/acknowledgment
– Treats

The first two techniques remained the same for Zoe and me – it was the third step that had to be redefined to fit my life. There was never a chance I would reward myself with the Newman’s heart-shaped peanut butter dog treats Zoe loves so much, even if peanut butter is my Desert Island Food. And I was mindful to abstain from treating myself with human food as well – this was my NEW trick journey, after all.

So here is how I decided to treat myself:
– I treated myself with love
– I treated myself with peace
– I treated myself with second chances (and third & fourth…)
– I treated myself with time

By the way, Mom was amazed at all of Zoe’s new tricks, and when I actually contemplated the broad scope of my own altered behaviors (my new tricks), I was pretty in awe of mine as well!

It wasn’t always easy to remember my commitment on how to treat myself and initially I landed on the gaps (no one said it was easy to teach an old dog new tricks, did they?). However, I was able to recognize and replace my self-criticisms with facts and compassion.

One of the best factors that contributed to the success of my new tricks experiment was a trusted mentor and friend’s lack of judgement, and her largesse in holding me able to create and complete the best version of my desired behavior changes that I can manage in each moment and within my own circumstances.

I realized recently that treating myself in a meaningful way is a process, a “trick” if you will, that I will need to repeat over and over until it becomes something I naturally do without thinking – sort of like when my other dog, Moses, starts rolling over before I actually give the command. He already knows what to do – and someday soon, so will I.

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Reclaim Your Power in Toxic Situations

By Christopher Littlefield, Founder of Acknowledgment Works & Friend of Simple Intentions

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn]

Few things seem to have the ability to drain our energy more than dealing with toxic people. In the workplace, we may have to frequently interact with a co-worker, manager, or direct report who seems to constantly be releasing negative or “toxic” energy. I’ve created five simple steps to help us take responsibility, create accountability, and reclaim our power in any unpleasant situation with a “toxic” colleague.

The first step is to stop associating the colleague with toxicity. How we talk, speak, and think about an individual or a situation dictates how we relate and react to it. If I believe someone is “toxic”, even a simple invitation from them to lunch starts to appear suspicious and malicious. Shift the associations and you’ll start to shift your experience of how you view this person.

Second, ask yourself, “What have I decided is true about this person?” Often, we may write someone off the first time they do something we do not agree with. The disagreement could have happened months ago, but since then we have been gathering evidence that they are a jerk. Acknowledge to yourself when and what YOU decided was true about them. They were not born toxic, it was a label that was given to them.

The third step is to try listening to the person from a different angle. In the book, The Art of Facilitation, Dale Hunter suggests listening for the motivation or “hidden commitment” behind an unpleasant interaction. As an example, after an important meeting your boss says, “I can’t believe you said that it front of our client, that was so stupid!”

Possible hidden commitments that may have caused your boss to use “toxic” rhetoric include:

  • They may be committed to the outcome of the project.
  • They may be committed to your growth.
  • They may be committed to doing what they feel is perfect work.
  • They may be committed to the client.
  • They may be committed to a promotion to help support their family.
  • They may be committed to not making a mistake.

The fourth step is to simply remember that this person, consciously or unconsciously, is doing what they think is best. Assuming positive intent can make all the difference in diffusing a toxic situation.

Finally, the last step to overcoming toxicity is to write your colleague’s name on a piece of paper and take 5 minutes to write a list of things you appreciate, admire, and have learned about/from them.

When we shift our relationships to “toxic” co-workers, we gain the power to understand the deeper meaning beyond difficult communication, stay present, and shift the atmosphere of the situation to calmer waters. When we are in alignment, we are able to set the boundaries of what kind of communication is acceptable in the future.

I find that even in the most difficult situations, once we show a colleague that we can see through their fire to what fuels them (their commitments), we are able to gain their respect and gain their partnership.

Now go reclaim your power.

 

Christopher Littlefield is the founder of AcknowledgmentWorks. He trains leaders around the world in the Art of Acknowledgment and Engagement. His work revolves around the understanding that at the heart of all of our relationships is the experience of feeling valued. Watch Chris as he shares his research at TEDx Beirut.

 

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Straight Talk

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[NOTE: This post originally appeared in the April 2017 print issue of Mindful Magazine]

Rear view of man gesturing with hand while standing against defocused group of people sitting at the chairs in front of him

I’ve developed a theory that the biggest driver of mindlessness at work comes from lack of communication. Most times, this is connected to the conversations we’re not having about our values, or about the boundaries we set (or don’t set) around how we live, honor, or uphold these values at work. You know the type of conversation I am talking about: the really uncomfortable one, where you know what you need to say is going to be awkward and might displease or disappoint another person.

Each day we encounter situations where we halfway communicate what we want to express, request, or need. In many cases, we do this because we fear being judged. Think about it: Have you ever edited a response because you felt uncomfortable revealing yourself and your thoughts concerning a certain topic?

  • Not sharing that you don’t agree that the redesign plan is the best choice.
  • Going along with the excitement around a new initiative even though you have serious doubts about its visibility.
  • Keeping silent about how uncomfortable it makes you that your boss brings her dog to the office every day — and it ends up in your space most of the time even though you really don’t like dogs.

So we halfway share, putting off the conversation we know is coming at some point. And, of course, the longer we avoid having it, the more uncomfortable the conversation can become.
The collective impact from having uncomfortable conversations can be truly transformational. Its effect goes beyond communication in the workplace; it can transform communication in every situation.

The path to navigating this territory with ease starts with awareness. Begin to notice when you are withholding, closing down, or not speaking up. Write about it in a private journal if that’s helpful. Then, with that awareness, begin to experiment with expressing your thoughts, needs, and desires one conversation at a time using the following tips to push through the discomfort.

Offer Context
It isn’t just about assigning blame. It is about creating dialogue around toxic and disruptive issues, so all involved can feel heard and choose to create a different reality. Offer context as to what the issue is, in a nonjudgmental way, this kind of sharing builds compassion and allows everyone to get on the same page. It’s when we don’t offer context that the discomfort grows.

Invite Options
If someone is making a request that isn’t possible, say so and invite a conversation about what is possible. It’s important to ask how that might work for the person making the request. Explaining, offering another solution, and inviting dialogue increases the sense of sharing and collaboration.

Be Sincere
Say what you mean with grace, respect, and as much authenticity as possible. When you speak from the heart, even if others don’t like or agree with the message, the energy behind the intention comes through. Odds are strong that your honesty will help things to shift.

With this in mind, what is one uncomfortable conversation you are willing to have today?

 

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